“I have a point of view. You have a point of view. God has view.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle
(This is part 2 of a series on four essential prayers for faith leaders. You can find part 1 here.)
In her outstanding book, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Ruth Haley Barton writes that one of the key prayers a leader must pursue in order to effectively follow God’s will is the prayer of indifference. She writes:
“In the context of spiritual discernment, indifference is a positive term signifying that ‘I am indifferent to anything but God’s will.’ This is ‘interior freedom’ or a state of openness to God in which we are free from undue attachment to any particular outcome…We ask God to bring us to a place where we want ‘God’s will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.’” (p. 63)
This is the essence of the Prayer of Surrender. As you can tell, it’s not an easy prayer to learn.
God created each of us with the capacity for desire. We want, and this is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s one of the central qualities by which we reflect the Imago Dei. Some say that Buddhism stands on the idea that all desire & attachment lead to suffering, so the way to fulfillment is by killing your desire and thereby relinquishing all attachment to any outcome. That is not what the prayer of surrender is about.
The Prayer of Surrender is not about killing desire; but rather, surrendering it to God. It includes these four parts:
1. Connect with what you want to happen. The prayer of surrender begins by fully connecting with every ounce of your desire around a particular issue, relationship, or aspect of your life. It’s about recognizing on a deeply experiential level that you have a preference for how you want a situation to unfold ~ often a very strong and very specific preference. “This is what I want. This is what I believe ought to happen. This is what my soul longs for. This is what I believe God ought to do now.” It’s difficult to surrender a desire you refuse to acknowledge or try to ignore. So, begin there.
2. Pour out your desire to God. Once you’re clear on your own desires around a particular issue, the next step is to pour your desire out to God in all of its raw and unedited passion. This is not about convincing God of anything, or telling Him something He doesn’t already know. It’s about bringing all of your desire into relationship with all of God. It’s about leaving nothing unsaid. Holding nothing back. King David was especially good at this aspect of prayer. If you’d like some examples, you’ll find a few great ones here and here.
3. Surrender all of it to God. That is to say, give God full permission to do with your desire whatever He wants. This isn’t about denying your desire or pretending it isn’t there. Rather, it’s about recognizing God as Lord and King over your life, including your desires in this particular matter. It’s about acknowledging that God’s perspective, insight, and knowledge about what’s best in this matter are far greater than yours, and that you can entrust your desire to Him as One who will do what is right, even if it isn’t the thing you want Him to do.
4. Ask for the grace of indifference to all but God’s will. Another way to say this is to ask God to align your will with His, so that you want what He wants ~ nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. Only when your soul can come to the place of full surrender in this way will you be able to truly discern His will, and follow it effectively.
I take up my desire.
I pour it out before You.
I surrender it fully to You.
And I ask You to bring me into full alignment with Your will.
Like I said, not an easy prayer. But I believe it’s impossible for any faith leader to follow God without it.
What do you think? How has this prayer shown up most in your own leadership journey?